You're the best!

Posted by: Anonymous

You're the best! - 05/18/06 11:37 PM

I just wanted to send a short fan letter, I love your work.

Browsing the mystery section in the library one day, I came across "In-laws and Outlaws", the title caught my eye. And boy, did it blow me me away! You instantly shot up to the top of my fave list. What you do with characters and dialogue is simply fantastic. For the past year, I have been working on catching up with all your mystery novels and have loved them all. Thank you for all the fun!
Posted by: Barbara

Re: You're the best! - 05/19/06 02:53 PM

Well, Noo, you certainly know how to write a topic header! Thank you so much for the nice words; I'm glad you're enjoying the books. And I'm always happy to hear from a new reader -- well, relatively new, in your case, I guess. How do you feel about science fiction?
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: You're the best! - 05/19/06 05:33 PM

Hi! You know, I wasn't sure if I went over the top with the title, but it reflected my emotions! I was on the web in search of your books for purchase, and was thinking about how fortunate I was to have just happened upon your work. It's hard to explain that joy of discovery to someone who isn't a fan of reading, but I'm sure that you can relate. I was thrilled to see that you had a website and this forum. You mean I can actually talk to her?

Mysteries are what made me fall in love with reading as a child, specifically in the short-story format, which I still love. I haven't delved into science fiction too much. As a youngster I tried some sci-fi, and it seemed like the characters were all good and all evil, or had motivations that didn't ring true. I preferred the dark, funny, complicated, and real characters I read in mysteries. But my early favorites were Jospehine Tey and Ruth Rendell, so that'd be hard for anybody to top! It could be I was just picking the wrong sci-fi books. There's plenty of mystery I don't care for, where the characters are one-note, but it's a pretty strong genre in general. And I think mystery writers have been turning out the best short stories for years.

I'm an Octavia Butler fan. Someone recommended her to me, specifically Kindred. Read it, loved it, and at this point I've read most of her novels and short stories. I have her last book, the vampire one, on my "To Do" shelf, so I'm looking forward to that. Her work seemed to be more like social commentary disguised as sci-fi, but I'm told a lot of sci-fi is like that.

I also love Fay Weldon, who isn't sci-fi, but some of what happens in her novels seems science fiction-y. I love the darkness of her characters!

So I delved into your site and saw that you write sci-fi, too! On eBay, I saw the romance books with your name and assumed that was a different Barb, and that's what I'd thought about the sci-fi too, but now I know better! I'll definitely check those out, I know that I love your writing style. Thanks again!
Posted by: Barbara

Re: You're the best! - 05/19/06 11:09 PM

Ah-ah! Careful! I've never written romance. I don't even read romance. An English romance writer used "Barbara Paul" as a pseudonym for a while, so those romance novels you've come across were all written by her.

Yes, Octavia Butler's writing is social commentary dressed up as SF. There was a rash of that kind of book starting, oh, 30 years ago or more. Butler's a good writer, but not all of the fiction in that subgenre has held up very well. I've not read her vampire book. Right now I'm reading the second book in a series with the collective title Tour of the Merrimack, by R. M. Meluch (the R stands for "Rebecca"). The first book is titled The Myriad and the one I'm reading now is Wolf Star -- rather mundane titles for books that are anything but mundane. Straight SF adventure, idiosyncratic characters, and an absolutely wicked sense of humor. These two books are welcome reminders of how much sheer fun SF can be.

But since mysteries are your first love, I hope you haven't missed Liza Cody's books.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: You're the best! - 05/20/06 09:26 AM

May I butt in? I've never understood the appeal of Octavia Butler's work. Every time I tried to read her, I felt as if I was doing homework. I had to force myself to continue. Noo, what is it you like about her novels? I must be missing something.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: You're the best! - 05/20/06 02:54 PM

I haven't read Liza Cody. Thanks for the recommendation! I will check her out on my next library run. The name sounded so familiar, I checked my shelf and it turns out I have a short story anthology she edited, 2nd Culprit. One of her stories is in there, I'm going to re-read that one. R. M. Meluch sounds good, you had me at "wicked sense of humor".

Do you all have any favorite short story anthologies? I think maybe to get my feet wet in sci-fi, I'd like to start in the short story format, figure out whose style I like. One anthology I really like is "Silver Scream", it's horror, but it's also got mystery and sci-fi flavors, which I guess most horror does. It's some powerful stories in there.

Octavia! I really like her writing style, her prose is tight and lean. I get lost in the story; she strikes me as a natural storyteller with the right instincts in flow and pacing. I like what she does with characters (particularly the female characters) and how she handles the complications and nuances of relationships. It was also exciting for me to read something from a Black woman's point of view. Like with the "chick lit" genre, there's a lot of weak writers out there selling books about the African-American experience. And then some of your strong writers (e.g., Alice Walker, Toni Morrison) are, well, deep - tackling heavy issues or have thick prose. Sometimes I just want a fun, engaging, and well-written read that doesn't leave me depressed. So I was probaly thirsty for someone like an Octavia. I don't think it's just Black women that can enjoy her, but perhaps women do make up most of her audience. And her work is social commentary, I imagine every body doesn't want that. Sometimes you just want a story!

So at this point, I probably haven't convinced you to give Octavia another shot! If you like short stories, maybe you could try some of those, she has a compilation called Blood Child. Her last novel, Fledgling, I haven't read, but it's about vampires. How bad could it be!
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: You're the best! - 05/21/06 12:33 PM

Noo -- sorry I didn't get back to you yesterday. We were all rather distraught about a horse named Barbaro.

You said "I get lost in the story" -- that's what I could never do. I always felt as if I was being instructed about something or other. But I haven't looked at her books in years; I might give Fledgling a try. Vampires? As you say, how bad could it be?

Barbara -- R. M. Meluch? That rings a bell. I think I read something by her with "Wind" in the title, but that was a long, long time ago. Same writer?
Posted by: Barbara

Re: You're the best! - 05/22/06 05:36 PM

Same writer. You read either Wind Dancers or Wind Child, both published in the 80s. I was just getting interested in her when she simply dropped out of sight, I don't know why. But now she's back, even better than before. She's developed an aesthetic distance in her writing that lets the reader laugh at the goings-on in the story. But it's always affectionate laughter, never mocking or hurtful.

I probably won't read Fledgling; vampires just aren't my thing. I wrote a couple of vampire short stories for Marty Greenberg anthologies, but they were both tongue-in-cheek.
Posted by: Rita

Re: You're the best! - 05/23/06 10:28 AM

I read one of those -- "Totally Tallulah" is an absolute hoot. Here's this tall, dark, mysterious stranger nibbling at Tallulah's neck, but instead of her changing into a vampire, he starts becoming more like her. I just loved that.

Noo, are you still here? Hello.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: You're the best! - 05/23/06 06:37 PM

I guess she's gone.

Rita, that story rose out of one of the problems I have with vampire lore. It never seemed reasonable to me that sucking the blood of a fair young maiden would turn her into a vampire. Now, if she had ingested some vampire blood, we could pretend that was what caused her transformation. But blood flowing from her to him? Nah.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: You're the best! - 05/23/06 06:39 PM

Oh, my! Instead of "problems", I should have said "issues" -- right? Or is that no longer trendy?
Posted by: Christopher

Re: You're the best! - 05/26/06 10:07 AM

No, "issues" is still the in-word.

It's the same for werewolves, isn't it? One bite and you start growing hair.
Posted by: Scribbler

Re: You're the best! - 05/26/06 02:45 PM

Well... turning into what bit you (be it vampire or werewolf) could be looked at as a sort of infectious response.

Or in the case of the vampire -- because the vampire has drained the victim of blood, the victim now needs to replace what they've lost, and so they, in turn, take the blood of the next victim.

But I suppose there are several ways of looking at it.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: You're the best! - 05/26/06 05:48 PM

Yes, I think that's it -- biting as a way of passing on an infection, springing from a period when infection itself was imperfectly understood. They surely must have seen the result of being bitten by a rabid dog. Magnify the dog into a wolf, and you have a dangerous night prowler whose bite leaves the victim, well, contaminated. And some bats do suck blood. I once read that periods of vampirism -- that is, belief in vampires -- coincided historically with outbreaks of cholera. Some cholera victims were thought dead when they were only in a coma and were buried alive. Somebody coming out of a coma and finding himself in a coffin would do his damnedest to fight his way out, and evidently enough of them succeeded to fuel the legend of the dead-but-not-dead. (I don't know when the term "undead" came into use, but I suspect that's a modern addition.) So I guess if Dracula hadn't brushed his teeth for a while, he could very well pass along an infection.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: You're the best! - 05/27/06 09:21 AM

But what about the Frankenstein monster? He didn't go around biting people.
Posted by: Rita

Re: You're the best! - 05/27/06 03:41 PM

Ah, but the Frankenstein monster was a literary creation, not a legendary figure. Mary Shelley could make him do anything she liked.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: You're the best! - 05/29/06 11:25 AM

Barbara, what's the other vampire story? I missed that.
Posted by: Rita

Re: You're the best! - 05/29/06 09:32 PM

Chris --
Posted by: Christopher

Re: You're the best! - 05/30/06 11:48 AM

Oh, right, right! I remember reading about that. I also vaguely remember looking for the anthology, but I never saw a copy.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: You're the best! - 05/30/06 01:29 PM

And you probably never will, Chris. Martin Greenberg, the editor, once told John DeChancie (a friend and fellow writer) that he was in the remainder business. He'd put together an anthology as quickly as he could; a small number would sell, but mostly the books would be discounted to libraries. Whatever was left would quickly go on the remainders tables in bookstores and everybody is happy: the writers earn a little money, the publishers make a little money, and the readers get to buy the books at half price. Not quite like straight-to-video movies, but close. Not all of Marty's anthologies are assembled for quick remaindering -- hardbacks, the Cat Crimes series, etc. sell pretty well. But almost all of the paperback anthologies are not long for this world.